The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & Losers

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) TO Democratic State Sen. Wendy Davis, for filibustering to block an anti-abortion measure in the Republican-controlled Texas Senate. Davis spoke for 10 hours without water, food, or bathroom break, and when Republicans cut her off on shaky procedural grounds, her fellow Democrats delayed a vote on the measure past a midnight deadline. By then the statehouse overflowed with her supporters, #standwithwendy was trending on Twitter, and 180,000 people watched the proceedings live. Republican Gov. Rick Perry has called another special legislative session to win passage, but the onetime teenaged single mom who went on to graduate from Harvard rallied a national audience around the plight of Texas women harmed by the bill and put an embarrassing spotlight on a dysfunctional Legislature.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) TO celebrity CEOs. It’s been a bad week for corporate figureheads in the public eye. At press time, Paula Deen’s sponsors were lining up to drop her, making her the new Lance Armstrong. Earlier in the week, George Zimmer, founder, CEO, and spokesman for fashion chain Men’s Wearhouse was dethroned by his own company. And Martha Stewart revealed on a chat show that she’s sent sexy text messages and “maybe” had a threesome – the sort of information she’d once have paid good money to keep under wraps. And then, she spanked the chat show host with a paddle. Considering Martha’s conservative homemaking audience, the PR strategy there would be . . .?

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD TO News International. Or News UK. Or is it News Corporation? Rupert Murdoch’s array of corporate entities receives this award for the baffling announcement that News International is becoming News UK, while News Limited will undergo a similar metamorphosis in Murdoch’s native Australia. Both will become part of “the new News Corp,” ie the parent company, whose name hasn’t changed. Got that? The rebrand, which comes in the wake of a phone-hacking scandal in Britain, seems to have fallen short of its stated goal to achieve a “more coherent and logical identity.” In any event, the “news” failed to impress. As one online wag noted, “New name – same ethics.”

The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & Losers

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (GOLD STAR!) TO Mike Tyson, who spoke this week about the day he found his then-wife Robin Givens in bed with “some little beach-bum-looking dude,” otherwise known as Brad Pitt. The true punch line is that there was no punch thrown; “I wasn’t thinking of attacking him,” Tyson told Global Grind. “I was just depressed I couldn’t bone [Givens] no more.”  Once known as throwing a punch or even a bite at the slightest provocation, his new PR image is that of the vegan, reflective giant.  With this amusing head-shaker of a story, his previous PR image of the unhinged boxer continues to recede and his PR rehab continues.

 

 

NY Post1 150x150 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (FULL FIASCO) TO The New York Post, which came under fire from readers and the media alike for printing a front-page photo of a man seconds away from death after being pushed onto subway tracks. (Out of respect for the family of victim Ki-Suck Han, the PRV will not show the photo.) The photographer said he was too far away from the victim to help, and that he was trying to warn the train driver with the flash from his camera. The Post did not bother defending its decision to run the photo with screaming headline DOOMED. With the Murdoch press still under the glare of phone hacking and other scandals, it’s silence on the issue leads to the inevitable question: Have they learnt any lessons?

 

 

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD TO NBC’s Today Show, for a bizarre mock-segment featuring host Matt Lauer as the “victim” of sexual harassment. The faux story, spawned after host Willie Geist swatted Lauer’s bottom with a newspaper, got more cringe-worthy by the minute as NBC investigative reporter Jeff Rossen was brought in report the “facts” and the camera cut to Lauer quietly questioning what he’d done to provoke the attack. Anyone on the receiving end of real sexual harassment couldn’t fail to be offended. An ill-conceived idea to stem Today’s recent ratings decline? Whoever dreamed this one up needs to return to Sensitivity 101 class. (For more, here.)

Putting the Church Into Scientology

scientologists celebrities 15 300x205 Putting the Church Into Scientology

The PR Verdict: F (Full Fiasco) for Scientology’s PR. Something isn’t working.

The Church of Scientology is girding its loins. After a week of disastrous press scrutiny following the TomKat divorce announcement, the organization looks set for further unsympathetic coverage. What role did Scientology play in the breakdown of the celebrity marriage? Who knows? But what is clear is that for non believers there is almost universal mis-trust when it comes to the Church founded by Ron Hubbard.

Rupert Murdoch caused a fuss last week when he Tweeted that the religion is a “very weird cult,” adding that there is “Something creepy, maybe even evil, about these people.” An Internet backlash was immediate, but the problem was that those hitting back were almost exclusively Scientologists. What about friends and sympathetic supporters?

On Friday, news outlets detailed a memo allegedly distributed by the Church of Scientology’s Office of Special Affairs that urges members to monitor the Internet for hostile statements about the Church and report them; hardly a strategy to win the hearts and minds of non-believers. With all their celebrity and influential contacts, wouldn’t the wiser, more sustainable PR strategy be to get non-believers defending the cause?

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Scientology’s PR. Something isn’t working, despite their high number of celebrity followers.

The PR Takeaway: Act and sound like you are at one with your name. The PR problem of the Church of Scientology is that it so rarely, from a PR perspective, behaves like a church. Where are the selfless acts of charity and good will that characterize the work of many other churches and religious orders? In tone and profile, the Church of Scientology sounds more like an aggressive corporation protecting brand and market share rather than a church. Why not be a little….well, church-ier?  It could be the strategy shift needed as the TomKat divorce places the organization back in the headlines.

Why Doesn’t Rebekah Brooks Have Any Supporters?

rebekahbrooks2 Why Doesnt Rebekah Brooks Have Any Supporters?

PR Verdict: “F” for Brooks and her PR strategy.

There was a surprising moment at the press conference held by Rebekah Brooks and her husband yesterday.  Rupert Murdoch’s favorite power editor had assembled the media to respond to news that criminal charges of conspiring to pervert the course of justice had been levied against her, her husband and assorted colleagues. Complaining the charges against others were unwarranted, Brooks emphatically stated  “I was the Editor of the News of the World.  I was the Editor of The Sun and I was Chief Executive.”   What a surprise! Was Brooks acknowledging she had been in charge after all?

The odd thing about the situation Brooks now finds herself in, is that despite many powerful friends, she has no visible supporters, apart from her Murdoch cronies.  Issues keep escalating, new discoveries are made and there is no brake on the relentless pursuit of those involved.  With charges being announced yesterday, the moment to sway public opinion and temper the investigating zeal of others may have just passed.

Put simply, Brooks’s problem is that no one believes a word she says.  Maintaining her line that she was unaware of phone hacking (bar one rogue reporter) has tested the limits of her own credibility. Coupled with her now infamous testimony where she acknowledged the routine payment of police officers, she has become the target of rage for all matters Murdoch.

PR Verdict: “F” for Brooks and her PR strategy.  Disliked and disbelieved, the  future of Rebekah Brooks looks bleak.  Her salvation may lie partly in mustering some public supporters but where are they?

PR Takeaway: Sometimes it’s better to concede something rather than deny everything.  Brooks and her cronies have faced an uphill battle, hemmed in by a legal strategy that obsessively denies any responsibility let alone culpability. A radical rethink might be needed.  To restore some credibility to Murdoch’s fallen angel, comments to the media should acknowledge some  personal failure and fault.  What else might encourage supporters to come forward publicly and guide this issue into another direction? That’s the question her legal and PR team might want to ponder.

To see the press conference and read more click here.

What’s your PR Verdict?

[polldaddy poll=6204134]

Who Says “Fit and Proper”?

rupertmurdoch1may Who Says Fit and Proper?

The PR Verdict: “D” for the Tories and their decision re being "fit and proper".

Isn’t it marvelous what a difference a public enquiry makes?  Rupert Murdoch is now not a “fit and proper” person to run a public company according to the  Culture Committee of the UK Parliament, which issued its headline making report yesterday.  Although Murdoch was “fit and proper” enough to be amongst the first to meet with David Cameron when he officially became Prime Minister.  This is one friendship that will create ongoing PR issues for the British PM, despite his already numerous attempts to create some distance from the media mogul.

Tory party committee members chose not to fully endorse yesterday’s report because of the insistence by the Labour and Liberal Democrat majority on describing Murdoch as “not a fit person” to run a major international company.  One Tory committee member told the press conference yesterday that the committee had seen “absolutely no evidence” to endorse such a “completely ludicrous” conclusion.

Such highhanded dismissive language seems out of sync with the report and recent headlines.  With over 30 arrests since the scandal erupted, multiple apologies from Murdoch, millions paid in compensation, and under the table payments having been made to police, there seems ample air cover to endorse a “not fit” label.   The PR onus rested on the report’s dissenters to explain more fully their abstention.  Yesterday’s comments inadvertently place Cameron and his party into being unofficial Murdoch champions. Was that the intention?

The PR Verdict:  “D” for the Tories.  The decision to hold out on agreeing with the committee’s crucial finding, for whatever reason, has placed David Cameron in a tight place.  This was a tactical PR blunder.

PR takeaway: Taking a principled stand is one thing. Taking a stand without explanation is another.   Having signed off on the report’s wording that said it is “simply not credible” that the Murdochs had “no inkling of what was going on”, a high handed dismissive approach from a Tory party committee member misses the PR mark.  The ripple effect for the British PM is that he is now in the uncomfortable PR dilemma of defending Murdoch and his party’s decision,  despite the highly critical findings of the report.  Some nuanced and finer wording from the dissenters might have easily avoided the trouble Cameron seems now destined to walk into.

To read about the report click here.

What’s your PR Verdict?

[polldaddy poll=6189997]

Why Are Rebekah And Her Friends Still In Trouble?

rebekahbrooks 300x168 Why Are Rebekah And Her Friends Still In Trouble?

The PR Verdict: “F” for a crisis strategy that is failing.

Rebekah Brooks, former CEO of News International and best buddy of Rupert and James Murdoch has been arrested for the second time.  Previously arrested last year, she is hitting the headlines again for all the wrong reasons. This time speculation is that the arrest concerns a charge of perverting the course of justice. Tough times ahead.

Despite endless protests from News International denying knowledge of widespread phone hacking and corruption of public officials, the arrests proceed and the parliamentary inquiry deepens. Public rage continues unabated.

In terms of crisis management, the hacking scandal was always a PR issue first and foremost.  Prioritising legal concerns over PR has been the major blunder.  As it happens things are looking bad on the legal front anyway.

The PR Verdict: “F” for a crisis management strategy that is failing.   Is it possible that News International’s ordeal might have been shorter-lived if PR concerns had driven and shaped the crisis strategy, with legal concerns in second place?

Pubic and political pressures have a nasty habit of taking a crisis in surprising directions.  What might have happened if News International had conceded wrongdoing and made amends at the outset?  The closing of News of the World, millions paid out in damages, the BSKYB acquisition blocked and multiple staff arrests could hardly be described as a strategic success.  It might have been wiser to take an earlier hit with a PR strategy that paid less attention to legal risk and prioritised reforming the company and closing the issue. No doubt Rebekah can tell us more in court.

To read about the latest arrests click here. To read more background about the phone hacking scandal click here.

Is there a news item that you think needs a grade? Send us your suggestion for the next PR Verdict: info@prverdict.com

What’s the PR Verdict on the Latest Chess Move by Murdoch?

murdoch and the sun Whats the PR Verdict on the Latest Chess Move by Murdoch?

The PR Verdict: "B" for a chess move designed to startle.

Rupert Murdoch’s announcement that he will begin publishing the Sun on Sunday has surprised followers of the phone-hacking scandal.  In one move, Murdoch has managed to change the conversation from criminal charges and ongoing arrests, to one about a new newspaper, and fresh jobs for journalists. The 81 year old has moved quickly and as a game changer this is perfect.

Though unanswered questions will continue to plague Murdoch’s empire, the company now has a definitive reason to start talking about its future without having to answer questions solely about the past.  By creating a new newspaper, News International can confidently reply:  That Was Then –  This Is Now.

The PR Verdict: “B” for a chess move designed to startle.  The new story about News International will be the Sun on Sunday’s actual content and business performance.

If News International really wants to put the past behind it, the first issue of the Sun on Sunday should carry a pledge from management and journalists making a clear break with the past, outlining core values and making a public promise of integrity to its readers.  It might just be the definitive line-in-the-sand the public has been waiting for. After that, the editors will need to work out just what type of paper they can create when they are not putting celebrities under surveillance or hacking phones for gossip.

Will the Sun on Sunday be that different from News of the World?  Let us know.